“Keeping it Simple” is more important than ever!

A blog from Katy Scott and Phil Griffiths about the importance of keeping the message simple when learning remotely.

In January I wrote a blog post all about the simplicity of the message. In the months that have followed we have experienced a seismic shift in everything we do both in and out of the classroom. I find myself writing this ‘electronically’, ‘remotely’ in ‘unprecedented’ times.

One point that stands out when I read my January blog post back is this; ‘With all that teaching and learning noise out there we need to keep things simple.’

After some of my early Zoom lessons, I reflected on how much I seemed to be talking, how I was gesticulating wildly at the screen and how I seemed to overly use stock phrases that made me cringe when I looked back. I don’t think I was keeping it simple for my pupils.

As part of this reflection I spoke with Phil Griffiths and we discussed 3 techniques to keep it simple in the online classroom. I’ve framed this around the Kennet Airways theme from my earlier INSET to create the ‘Frog Flight Lounge’, 3 techniques we could use to support pupil learning; Explain in a sentence; Dual Code for clarity; Make new vocabulary clear.

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I often wondered what my teaching would look and sound like in Zoom and whether indeed, I could make effective use of these 3 techniques.

My triad focus this year has been to simplify my explanations and I had already had the pleasure of watching a colleague deliver a lesson out on the football pitch, before the days of social distancing took hold, in which he did this so well.

When I invited him to observe a Zoom lesson looking at how feedback can extend written responses, I was pleasantly surprised. The feedback for a virtual lesson observation has been so useful – keeping it simple does not mean that you can’t stretch your pupils. Indeed, the simplicity of these 3 techniques enabled students to write with flair and precision because they knew exactly what to do. With simplicity came clarity.

These 3 teaching techniques are helping me to distil all the teaching and learning noise out there and to deliver inspiring, creative lessons in a time when our blue skies are clearer than ever, but our destinations are unknown.

In every Zoom lesson, in every personalised ClickView video, in every Frog Assignment tab it boils down to the simple message of simplicity.

The 3 Techniques Explained

Explain in a Sentence

In order to give an effective and clear message, practise explaining a concept in 3 sentences. Can you now do it in 2? Is it possible to do it in 1? Try videoing yourself to watch how you normally explain the concept. What do you need to change to make it clearer and more concise?

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Dual Code for Clarity

Dual coding is using an image to illustrate an idea that is explained verbally. When recording a powerpoint with a voice-over use images on the slides instead of lots of text. This helps pupils to learn by exploiting their capacity to take in information aurally and visually at the same time. Try www.thenounproject.com for millions of icons to support your teaching.

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Make New Vocabulary Clear

This applies to all vocabulary but is particularly important for Tier 2 vocabulary. Tier 2 vocabulary are non-subject specific words that have a high frequency in written texts (beneficial, required, maintain). They are often the most difficult for learners because they are often not explicitly taught. Enable all learners to access your lessons by teaching tier 2 vocabulary explicitly. Check out the support for vocabulary in the shared area under Teachers/Literacy/Vocabulary.

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